Adding Personal Pizazz
Adding Personal Pizazz
Offering custom-designed lens art can result in walking advertisements for your dispensary, growing your business, and attracting high-end customers
By Susan P. Tarrant
Eyewear frames come in all sorts of styles, shapes, colors, and materials. They can be blinged out or barely there. But ophthalmic lenses are meant to be invisible, simply offering high-quality optics and the best vision possible for the wearer. Right?
Not if you think outside the box and welcome customers who value personal style and want something different from what everybody else wears.
Dispensers who are adding pizzazz to lenses are enjoying a niche that is not only profitable, but also gives their practice a reputation for high-quality, custom service.
Lenses can be personalized cosmetically in a number of ways, from custom shapes and edge designs to etching, facets, and embedded jewels.
“It’s anything that gives the eyewear a little something extra,” says Marcus Harden, finishing department head at Ice-Tech Advanced Lens Technologies in Atlantic Beach, FL, and co-owner of Rumars Design custom eyewear in Jacksonville, FL. Harden has been putting a personal touch on lenses for more than 30 years, along with designing frames.
“There is so much out there that is plain, plain, plain,” he says. “This kind of work makes eyewear exciting.”
The very thing that Harden loves about custom work is the same thing that draws customers to the idea of their own personal eyewear design.
“You will not see yourself on the street coming toward you,” he says.
“We’re not just opticians, we’re artists,” adds Bill Curran, ABOC, owner of William J. Curran and Son Opticians in Drexel Hill, PA. Curran and optician/designer Mike Shanahan, ABOC, display custom eyewear throughout the shop. It gets people’s attention, and it gives people ideas.
The beauty of custom lens designs is that there really are no limits to what can be done, as long as the optics and the stability of the lens are not compromised.
Patients may be driven by the desire for something artsy, unusual, or just colorful. Others may want something elegant for a special occasion. “If you can still get the optics, especially with a progressive, you can do anything you and the customer want,” says Daniel Protz, owner of Eye Elegance in Houston.
Coming up with a personalized element to a lens can mean modifying the intended shape of a three-piece mount or designing a piece of art that will fit a frame.
“If you want something detailed, it’s going to take me some time do the job right,” Harden says. It’s time well spent, however, when it results in a happy customer who will return—and spread the word about your dispensary.
If you’re not comfortable doing the work yourself, then send the job to a specialist.
“If somebody is asking for something special, do some research and you’ll find somebody who can do it,” Harden advises, adding that the wholesale lab is the best place to start. If the lab won’t do it, they’ll most likely know of a skilled optical craftsman who will. “Don’t be shy, and don’t turn away that customer,” he says.
WHO’S THE CUSTOMER?
Though opticians report a much higher percentage of female customers opting for customization than men, the demographics are wide open. “Sometimes it’s the people you least expect,” says Curran. “You can’t judge people by how they look or what you think they’ll be like. The people who come to my shop are people who appreciate quality when it comes to eyewear.”
The clientele of Craig Chasnov, owner of Eyetopian in Ft. Myers, FL, is mostly female, mostly older, and mostly affluent. With an average eyewear sale of at least $1,000, 70 percent of his sales are three-piece mounts, which makes lens customization a perfect fit for him. He also gets a lot of his custom work from referrals from other dispensaries that do not offer the service.
WHAT’LL IT BE?
Optical customers in search of highly stylized, custom-designed eyewear have plenty of options when it comes to adding pizzazz to their lenses. Though the possibilities seem endless, here are some techniques to turn regular lenses into works of art:
FACETS. Like beautiful, decorative edges of mirrors, facets are polished planes cut near the edge of the lens.
ETCHING. Using a laser or an etching tool, any design (picture, shape, or initial) can be essentially “carved” into the lens surface.
EDGE CUTS. Done primarily (but not exclusively) on rimless lenses, this is a way to jazz up flat lens edges with cool cuts and angles.
EDGE COLOR. Done with a special pen, this is “painting” some color on and around the edges, in edge grooves, or on edge cuts.
CUTOUTS. Shapes and designs literally cut out of a lens.
EMBEDDED GEMS. Holes are countersunk into a lens and a gemstone or other decorative object is embedded there. Diamonds, anyone?
CUSTOM SHAPES. Though primarily done with rimless lenses, custom shapes can be applied to semi-rimless lenses. This is where creativity can really shine.
Personalization in spectacle lenses run the gamut when it comes to design originality. Images courtesy of Daniel Protz (top) and Bill Curran
Custom lenses can express individuality and practical benefits such as lighter weight. Images courtesy of Marcus Harden (top) and Santinelli
“We do a lot of custom frames, too, so we can match the frame to the color of the lens edge or the jewels they want in the lens,” says Chasnov.
DIY CUSTOM JOBS
Dispensers seeking to offer custom lens work from their own finishing labs are in luck—there are many edgers and finishing systems that offer custom design capability, including:
■ AIT INDUSTRIES. The 680 Edger offers wrapped or rolled bevel capability. In 2013, a newer version will allow for custom shapes and shelf bevel for specialized sunwear.
■ BRIOT. The Briot Alta finishing system and its Emotion edger each feature Digiform software, allowing dispensers to produce custom-shaped rimless lenses.
■ COBURN TECHNOLOGIES. The Excelon XD features an optional 3-D drill module for drilling any kind of hole on the lens for gems, decorative cut-outs, and other uses.
■ ESSILOR INSTRUMENTS USA. Mr. Blue finishing system creates custom shapes and edge designs. It and Mr. Orange finishing system can countersink holes for gems.
■ NATIONAL OPTRONICS. The 7E edger can cut specialty shapes, custom bevels, and can countersink holes to embed gems in the lens.
■ SANTINELLI INTERNATIONAL. The Me 1200 edger offers beveling options for any high-wrap frame and custom design shapes, faceting, and countersink holes for gems.
Adds Protz, “In most cases, it’s a matter of reading the individual. If she is looking over our frame collection and just not seeing anything that grabs her, or she seems to have a style of her own, that’s when we’ll say, ‘You want to try something really different?’”
Custom lens work is not limited to the high-end retail customer, either. It can have aesthetic, optical, or even medical origins.
■ HARD-TO-FIT Rx. Being able to manipulate the edge, bevel, and sometimes even shape of the lens can be a solution for fitting those tough Rx’s like high minuses and high curves into frames while maintaining optics and aesthetics. Cut-outs on a very thick lens can aid in reducing the weight of the lens as well.
■ MEDICAL/NEURO. Creative thinking can help create personalized eyewear with specialized lenses (even as magnetic clips) for treating neurological conditions such as dyslexia.
■ KIDS. Making reticent children excited about wearing eyewear can be as simple as making a cool lens shape or etched designs, or adding gemstones in the lens.
Bottom Line: Pricing
Because it’s custom, there is no “usual” fee for a custom lens. If ECPs do the work in-house, they can set whatever price they want, as their only expense essentially is time (and skill). If the work is done by a lab or outside craftsman, ECPs can mark up the wholesale charge.
Each element of the custom design is “sellable” and can be priced separately: the facet, the etching, the rhinestones. A custom shape lens for a three-piece mount may cost a customer an extra $40 to $50. Other, more intricate work will cost more as will gems and stones.
“The profitability of eyewear like this is endless,” says Marcus Harden, finishing department head at Ice-Tech Advanced Lens Technologies in Atlantic Beach, FL, and co-owner of Rumars Design custom eyewear in Jacksonville, FL, adding that custom design work can be priced “to whatever the market will bear.” And with good reason, in his opinion. The work involved requires skill not found in every optical shop or lab.
In addition to a little extra in profit, offering quality and creative lens customization can build a dispenser’s reputation and popularity.
“I don’t do it to get money up front,” says Protz. “That’s shortsighted. I do it to get someone excited about his eyewear and spread that excitement. I do it to create someone who is, essentially, going to sell my shop.” EB
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